Government’s credibility ‘eroded’ by Sroubek case

Weekend Life 01/12/2018
Photo: Getty.

By Rodney Hide, former ACT Party leader.

OPINION: Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has promised a kind government. I would settle for honest government.

Last month the Prime Minister told us to “read between the lines” for why Immigration Minister Iain Lees-Galloway had granted drug-dealing criminal Karel Sroubek residency.

I had no idea what she meant. I couldn’t understand why she couldn't just tell us – and I still don’t. We were told the secrecy was to “protect privacy”.

It appeared more like a convenient device to cover up a Ministerial screw-up.

Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters declared privacy “critical”. He told RadioLIVE’s Mark Sainsbury that he had the full details and was “confident the Minister has made the correct decision.”

It isn’t just Immigration Minister Iain Lees-Galloway who screwed up.

Winston Peters said he had reviewed the Minister’s decision to grant Sroubek residency and was satisfied with it.

But Minister Iain Lees-Galloway has now reversed his decision. The correct decision is no longer correct. The latest decision is the correct one. Sroubek is now liable for deportation.

The “between-the-lines” reading proved nothing. It was just Prime Ministerial flim-flam.

We now know the Minister didn’t read the file. He didn’t agonise over his decision as we were told. He made his decision to grant Sroubek residency astonishingly quickly on just a cursory review.

In answers to questions in Parliament on Thursday, Winston Peters, answering on behalf of the Prime Minister, said Iain Lees-Galloway was, “setting out, having made only one mistake in a year, to fix it up."

The original decision to grant Sroubek residency was a mistake. It was an error. We all knew that a month ago.

Karel Sroubek is formally from the Czech Republic.

We are left to infer that Winston Peters review of the decision was also mistaken. And that the Prime Minister’s admonishment to “read between the lines” was also in error.

We are also none the wiser as to whose privacy was being protected.

We haven’t heard the last of Karel Sroubek. Ministers just can’t chop and change according to whim and politics when granted statutory discretion. Sadly, the Minister’s handling of the case opens the Government up to appeal. It’s going to drag on and cost us a great deal of money.

That’s bad enough, but something deeper has also happened.

It isn’t just Immigration Minister Iain Lees-Galloway who screwed up.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said she was across it. She said ‘trust us’. That the Government knows what it is doing. Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters said he had reviewed the decision. That if we knew the facts, like he knew them, we would agree with him.

We now know the Minister made a monumental blunder. And the Prime Minister and Deputy Prime Minister blundered in trying to cover for his blunder.

They said ‘trust us’. That the Government knows what it is doing. It turns out we couldn’t and they didn’t.

I don’t know about kind government. But I sure would like some honest government.

The Sroubek case has seriously eroded this government’s credibility.

Rodney Hide speaks all things politics every Saturday on RadioLIVE’s Weekend Life.